Home of the Living, Land of the Dead: Dwelling with the Bronze and Iron Age Tombs of Southern Burgundy Public Deposited

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  • March 21, 2019
  • Meyer, William J., Jr.
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Anthropology
  • This dissertation explores landscape syncretism: the socio-ecological process by which people make sense of landscapes inherited from past generations, building and re-building relationships among place-specific structures just as they do among the human residents of the landscape. Incorporating ideas from phenomenological archaeology, historical ecology, and social studies of science and technology, a syncretic perspective focuses upon the continual negotiation of dynamic socio-ecological relationships among a wide variety of actors, including (but not limited to) humans. This research examines such negotiations through a case study of Hallstatt tumuli (i.e., burial mounds), dating to the 11th through 5th centuries BCE (i.e., the late Bronze to early Iron Ages), in the Arroux and Somme river valleys of southern Burgundy (east-central France). Classic archaeological data about the tumuli of the project area, though inconsistent, suggest that their Hallstatt builders forged specific relationships among these newly constructed burial mounds, other physical features (both inherited and new), and the humans with whom they shared the Arroux and Somme valleys. As a result, the Hallstatt landscape was both deeply relational — including relations between found and new elements, relations of provisioning, spatial relations, sensual relations, and conceptual / semiotic relationships — and heterogeneous. Unlike standard archaeological treatments that might focus exclusively on this relational and heterogeneous Hallstatt landscape, the case study presented here examines a broader time scale: looking not only at the protohistoric past, but also at recent centuries. This broadened temporal perspective relies upon an expanded range of methods and data, including place-names and folklore from the early Modern period onward, the historiography of tumulus-related archaeology starting in the 19th century, and ethnography with members of living communities who interact with tumuli today. These additional sources demonstrate that the heterogeneity originally built into the Hallstatt landscape only multiplied as subsequent peoples came to inhabit the Arroux and Somme valleys, creating new relational systems or collectives of people, biota, and place-specific elements (i.e., landscapes) that co-existed — and continue to co-exist — in the same space. Archaeologists needs to recognize this co-existence and, working with the public, think about how to create productive moments of translation among these different landscapes.
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  • Crumley, Carole L.
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Graduation year
  • 2012

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